The Music Network
Paul Gilby reports on SOS activities on the run-up to the launch of The Music Network.
Here's the first in a regular series of reports on what's happening on The Music Network, Europe's new electronic communications network for the music industry. This month Paul Gilby answers some of the questions received from interested readers.
Since Sound On Sound hit the streets last month there has been a great response to The Music Network (TMN) from the music industry and readers alike. This month, I'll use this opportunity to answer some of the many queries we've received, and explain some communications jargon in the process.
First up, news of the interest shown towards The Music Network. Response falls into two distinct groups, readers and music industry. Before we announced TMN, or PAN-UK as it was once to be known, we were in contact with a number of instrument manufacturers about the system and asked them whether or not they would like to become involved. Every single company we approached expressed a keen interest in what TMN could do for them, and we are happy to report that not one of them thought the idea was a waste of time. In fact, for some companies you could say that TMN has surfaced at just the right moment.
We have been in discussion with Yamaha for some time and it looks like they will be using TMN for a variety of applications. Of most interest to readers will be a Yamaha on-line support service, which will be run as an extension of the X Series Owners' Club. This will allow queries to be answered by Yamaha staff, as well as including such things as a DX patch library where you will be able to download sounds into your computer, and much more. Roland will be using TMN for internal corporate communications whilst looking towards providing customer support in the future. The music software distributors of this country were immediately on the case: Computer Music Systems, who specialise in PC software and are the UK Voyetra distributors, will be running a Voyetra support area for registered users of their programs. Steinberg software distributors Evenlode Soundworks are initially looking at a Steinberg help area but also the possibility of offering a direct link through to their own Musician's Mail Service (MMS) in Germany.
Other organisations showing interest so far include the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the Association Of Professional Composers, a number of Universities with electronic music facilities, some major film and TV companies, numerous professional recording studios, and individual composers, the names of whom we are not at liberty to reveal yet!
Here are some of the most popular enquiries that we have received about TMN:
What equipment do I actually need to use TMN?
A computer, any popular make will do. A modem that is either an external box or internal card. A communications software program. A subscription to The Music Network. That's all!
What kind of computer do I need to access TMN?
Any computer will do. The only technical consideration is that it must have a serial port and that you must be able to buy a modem and communications software to run on it. That means that anyone with a PC, Atari ST, any Acorn BBC series micro, Archimedes, Apple Mac, Commodore 64, Amiga, Sinclair and many other makes and models will all be able to log onto The Music Network.
Readers with MSX or Yamaha CX5 computers will not, however, find their computer suitable. To our knowledge (and we are quite prepared to be corrected), we don't know anyone who sells compatible modems or software for use with these machines. So, sorry folks, but it really is time to upgrade.
What kind of modem will be suitable and what will it cost?
All popular makes of modem such as Pace, Amstrad, Miracle, StradComm, Demon, Playes, Dowty etc. Modems can cost several hundreds of pounds for the super spec ones or under £100 for those with a more modest but adequate specification. However, saving money on the cost of a modem can be a false economy. Speed of data transmission is more important. What you save on the cost of a modem is normally related to the fact that it will only transfer data at slow speeds (typically 300/300 baud). Consequently, you spend more money on your phone call because everything takes longer. Buying a fast modem (1200 baud) may cost more initially but then you don't spend as long on the phone line. It's your choice. You either go for a fast modem and get on and off the system quickly and efficiently or you save the money now and get lumbered with a slower system and more expensive phone bills.
Some modems offer what are referred to as 'split baud rates', the most popular being for Prestel access at 1200/75. This means that the system can send data to you very quickly at 1200 baud, but you can only transmit slowly at 75 baud. This is because Prestel is essentially a one-way system, where users are normally consuming information rather than sending it. If you intend being a 'consumer' (downloading info) of TMN facilities and not so much a contributor, then this sort of modem is fine. However, if you intend contributing synth patches or information on a regular basis then you should consider a faster 1200/1200 modem.
Is my computer communications software compatible with the TMN computer?
Yes. There is no compatibility problem to consider as all computers capable of running a communications program via a modem are by default compatible. There is nothing weird or unusual about The Music Network computer. It has to conform to international standards for telecommunications to allow it to interface with the international data lines. All popular comms programs feature very similar facilities, so no problems.
Which communications software program should I buy?
This depends on your computer, as many programs are available for all sorts of different models. However, some programs have gained a dedicated band of followers. For the Atari ST, look out for packages such as Mi-Term, K-Comm and Fastcom. On the PC, the most famous program is ProComm. This is available both in a shareware format and as a registered full version. Mirror II, Transend, Chit-Chat and GEM Comm are also worth checking out. Mini Office, which is an integrated suite of business type programs, ie. word processor, database, spreadsheet, etc also has a built-in comms program. This package is available for BBC, PC and many other computers, and is very reasonably priced. For the Apple Macintosh, Red Ryder (shareware or full version) is considered the tops! The Music Network will also be marketing its very own special MusicLink program that offers a unique WIMP environment for controlling the system.
How do I join The Music Network?
At the moment, you need to write or telephone Sound On Sound and we will send you a subscription form and information pack. After the system goes on-line on March 10th, there will be many more ways of joining. These will include membership registration cards inside all sorts of equipment that you might buy from your local music store, eg. software, keyboards, drum machines etc. If you already have a modem and comms program you will also be able to get onto TMN as a 'guest' user and register on-line with your credit card.
What will the technical specification of TMN be?
You will be able to access TMN at either 300/300, 1200/75 or 1200/1200 baud, using a data protocol of 8,N,1. That means 8 data bits, No parity, 1 stop bit. This is something you will find on your comms software and is simple to set up, so don't worry if it looks strange now.
How secure is the system?
Totally secure. No-one can read your electronic mail, if you don't want them to. No-one need know you are on the system if you wish to be an 'invisible' user. Each TMN subscriber has a personal password, known only to that person. You decide what it is and you can change it every day, week, month or whatever. You do it and only you know that password. If you let someone else see your password, then you are leaving yourself open to having your email intercepted. Security is down to you.
You may like to know that if anyone did enter your mail box and read your mail, TMN would be able to tell you who it was as every message sent and received is tagged with the user's identity. This is to prevent anonymous abuse, breach of security, and 'junk mail' merchants! As for data transmission, the data lines are operated by British Telecom and their overseas counterparts for international communications. TMN has nothing to do with these data lines, just as you have nothing to do with the line that comes to your telephone. They merely provide the service.
If you forget your password, you've got a problem. Not even the personnel at the TMN headquarters know your password. If you forget it, then TMN can only issue you with a new mail box and temporary password. This will allow you to log onto the system with your new password and then go and change it to one of your own, immediately. Any unread mail in your old box will be lost forever, so if you were expecting something important from someone, you would have to get them to send it again. Security can have its drawbacks!
Feature by Paul Gilby
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